Limp In Leipzig: Manchester City Fail To Make First Half Dominance Count

All the action from the Red Bull Arena
21:52, 22 Feb 2023

Under Pep Guardiola, Manchester City are a tale of two approaches. Sometimes they are ruthless, swatting down opponents with a hail of goals. Other times, like tonight at the Red Bull Arena as they drew 1-1 with RB Leipzig, they are too tame. In both scenarios they are dominant. City enjoyed 74% possession in the first half in Germany. But they were not ruthless, ceding that early dominance to a Leipzig team who warmed into the tie. 

The early minutes were an exercise in a sterile sort of dominance. City moved the ball well. They passed it far quicker than their Bundlesliga opposition and were adept at creating overloads, particularly down Kyle Walker’s right flank. What the Cityzens didn’t do was pose any real threat. The game was almost a quarter of an hour old before anyone lodged a shot on target. Pep Guardiola’s team were dominant, they usually are. But it was an unsatisfying style of supremacy.


Marcos Rose’s men had looked well-drilled enough to weather this gentle storm. But Xaver Schlager broke ranks and allowed a City side lacking incision to carve Leipzig apart. The midfield bungled a pass and Jack Grealish reacted. He found Ilkay Gundogan, who shepherded the ball to Riyad Mahrez to apply the hammered finish. It was a moment of chaotic unpredictability in a half that looked to have been scripted on the City training ground.

Mahrez nearly started the second half by making the same sort of impact he had on the first. A Gundogan pull-back presented a good opportunity but the winger had his shot blocked. At the other end, Benjamin Henrichs sent a header over as Leipzig finally showed signs of life.

There was an even more enticing change for Henrichs moments later. The half time substitute was played through in the right channel but could not direct his shot past Ederson. It was a chance that finally woke up the home fans at the Red Bull Arena. With the addition of Henrichs, Leipzig were finally showing some attacking bite.

Leipzig continued to exert pressure, with Andre Silva forcing a fine save from Ederson one-on-one. They would make this pressure tell when Josko Gvardiol rose to power home a well-worked corner routine. It was a goal the home side fully deserved after coming flying out of the blocks in the second half.

City showed resilience, with Erling Haaland outpacing Gvardiol before diverting his shot wide. Grealish’s square pass gave Gundogan a fine chance and the midfielder drew a superb stop from Janis Blaswich.

Pep will have to sharpen his weapons before the second leg in Manchester next month. Possession is only 9/10ths of the law after all. To earn a 10/10 and a place in the next round, City need to add goals. However with Haaland unlikely to be as anonymous as he was tonight, you’d back the Cityzens to get them at the Etihad.

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